The Deregulation Bill, proposed by Tory privatiser Oliver Letwin, slipped into law at the end of the last Parliament. It can change all other law, according to criteria of ‘growth’ ie business interests. It fits perfectly with the EU’s deregulatory agenda, and that of TTIP and the other new ‘trade’ agreements, which have largely come out of the City of London via the UK government anyway.
Summary: The UK Deregulation Act has attracted little attention. However it is meta-regulation that enforces the prioritising of the interests of business to deregulate over the public interest in maintaining and developing social and environmental protections, across the UK legislative and regulatory spectrum. The UK Act mirrors the deregulatory agenda within the EU and in the EU’s ‘trade’ deals. This Act must be repealed by a future elected government.
With minimal public attention, the UK Deregulation Act (1), proposed by Oliver Letwin (2), came into law at the end of the last parliament, achieving Royal Assent, the final stage for becoming law, on 26th March 2015.
The Deregulation Act is meta-regulation which allows for all other legislation and regulations to be assessed on the criterion of how they affect ‘growth’, and, with the assent of parliament, to be changed in relation to this criterion. This means that business interests will be above social and environmental protections, in law-making.
This UK Deregulation Bill fits into a continuum with the deregulatory trajectory of the international trade deals, like TTIP (3), that the European Commission is currently negotiating on our behalf and also with the current deregulatory agenda of the EU via its ‘Better Regulation’ program at EU level and its REFIT program for the whole of the EU.
These initiatives have come very much from the UK, on behalf of the City of London.
While a deregulatory agenda is officially denied at the EU and at the international trade agreement levels, even though it can clearly be identified. However, there appears to be no problem with calling the UK legislation the ‘Deregulation Act’.
Under the UK Act, the effect on ‘growth‘ is the criterion against which all existing and new legislation and regulation will be assessed, and the Act requires regulators to take primary account of this.
In TTIP, the supra-national Regulatory Cooperation Body, which will be set In the US/EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment (TTIP), as an example of a major ‘new generation ‘ so-called ‘trade agreement , the criterion against which all legislation and regulation will be assessed is ‘trade promoting’. As an on-going, ‘living agreement’, which means the effects of TTIP will continue to develop after the deal is signed-up, TTIP will have a supra-national Regulatory Co-operation Body. With big business at the table, this RCB will scrutinise all new legislation/regulation primarily against the criterion of how it affects international trade. Other aims such as protection of the environment, of health and safety, labour protections and social justice aims will be subordinated to this.
So, under TTIP and other international ‘trade agreements’, any proposed law or regulations that do not prioritise the interests of transnational business will be unlikely to ever progress beyond the earliest stages.
The UK Deregulation Act, using the language of ‘growth’, is designed to operate similarly, putting the onus on regulators to prioritise what big business wants from regulation, that is deregulation, generally, to increase profits, above the public interest, thus curtaining progressive law-making and democracy.
The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is already holding staff workshops on implementing a policy of prioritising deregulation (4).
The official summary of the Deregulation Act is that it ‘make(s) provision for the reduction of burdens resulting from legislation for businesses or other organisations or for individuals; make(s) provision for the repeal of legislation which no longer has practical use; make provision about the exercise of regulatory functions; and for connected purposes’.
In the same way that we are resisting the corporate benefit trade agreements such as TTIP, we need to be making the connections with the EU deregulatory agenda, and with this insidious UK Act through which much of our achieved legal protections can be undermined, bringing it out of the shadows, and The UK Deregulation Bill must be repealed by any government that we vote in.
Key parts of the Deregulation Act text (highlighting added):
Section 108 Exercise of regulatory functions: economic growth
(1) A person exercising a regulatory function to which this section applies must, in the exercise of the function, have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth.
(2) In performing the duty under subsection (1), the person must, in particular, consider the importance for the promotion of economic growth of exercising the regulatory function in a way which ensures that—
(a) regulatory action is taken only when it is needed, and
(b) any action taken is proportionate.
Extract from Section 110 Guidance on duty under section 108
(1)A Minister of the Crown may from time to time issue guidance as to the performance of the duty under section 108(1).
(2) The guidance may include guidance—
(a) as to the ways in which regulatory functions may be exercised so as to promote economic growth;
(b) as to how persons who have the duty may demonstrate, in a way that is transparent and accountable, that they are complying with it.
(3) A person who has a duty under section 108(1) must have regard to any guidance issued under subsection (1).
Extract from Section 112 Consequential amendments, repeals and revocations
(1)The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument ….
(2) An order under subsection (1)—
(a) may include transitional, transitory or saving provision;
(b) may repeal, revoke or otherwise amend or modify any provision of primary or subordinate legislation (including legislation passed or made in the same Session as this Act).make such provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in consequence of this Act.
111 Sections 108 to 110: Interpretation shows the breadth of the application of the Act, that it applies to any regulating of any activity involving ‘providing goods and services, and …employing or offering employment to a person’.
Other parts of the Act that deserve attention include: 100 Repeal of duty to prepare sustainable community strategy; 103 Repeal of duties relating to consultation or involvement.
- Author of ‘How to Privatise the World’
- TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, CETA-EU/Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, TiSA -Trade in Services Agreement, a plurilateral agreement alongside World Trade Organisation’s multilateral agenda. Also TPP-Transpacific Partnership agreement with similar functions for 12 Pacific countries, including the US
- BIS workshop on implementing deregulation held on Mon 9th November 2015 at BIS offices